Swift Playground: Apple’s free app that teaches kids to code!

Swift Playground Learn to Code Apps on your iPad!

What it is: Swift Playground is an awesome new app from Apple that teaches kids how to code in Swift. This free app for iPads uses games to teach kids Apple’s coding language used to create apps. Students can drag and drop code, and easily edit the code to customize it. The code can be instantly run so students can test out their code and see if it works. Best of all, in those instances that the code they put together doesn’t work, Swift Playground has debugging tools and hints built-in to help students rectify any problems. Students can also code with Swift from scratch making the app endlessly adaptable to any skill level.

How to integrate Swift Playground into your classroom: Swift Playground requires no previous coding knowledge, making it the perfect tool for learning how to code. For those students who have experience with coding, Swift Playground is robust enough for even seasoned programmers to bring new ideas to life. Swift Playground begins with a series of challenges to help students master the basics, students use code to help characters navigate a 3D world. When the challenges have been mastered, students can build and manipulate their own code to dream up new creations. Use Swift Playground to get your students thinking logically and solving problems from new perspectives. The skills built as students learn to code are the same skills that will help students in other disciplines like math and science. I love the way Swift Playground starts out by giving students a fun environment of challenges to learn the basics of Swift, but also allows them the flexibility of drag and drop code, and allowing students to edit and write their own code. Swift Playground even features a special keyboard that includes the most common coding characters so that students don’t have to hunt through keyboards to find what they are looking for. As students advance in their skills, they can use code templates that allow customization with code. Beyond what most learning platforms allow, students will be able to adjust multi-touch interactions, the accelerometer, and the gyroscope. These features and abilities are such an awesome tie-in to conversations about complex math and physics! When students are finished with their creation, they can share it with others using Messages, Mail, or Airdrop. Students can even post videos of their creation for others to see! For those who are really soaring, Swift Playground code can be exported to Xcode (where the pros create apps).

Swift Playground-Learn to code on the iPad

Many classrooms don’t yet have time built into the day that is dedicated to coding. But perhaps once a week you use coding in math class as applied math, or use Swift Playground as part of a 20% time offering in your classroom. If those are unavailable, consider participating in Hour of Code.  Play with Swift Playground yourself and you’ll start recognizing tie-ins with other learning that your students are doing. When your students are proficient with coding in Swift Playground, they can start creating and reflecting on learning with the code they know.  Swift Playground is a fantastic resource to have available as part of your Maker Space! Maybe they create a new game to help them remember vocabulary, or math facts. Perhaps they build a world based on a historical event. Once those basics are mastered the application possibilities are endless!

Tips: Everyone can code! This isn’t a skill that only a few should possess. Even the youngest students can use Swift Playground, I’m talking kindergarten can use this app! If you are new to the concept of code, check out this crash course from Apple.

3 Steps to a Living Curriculum

3 Steps to a Living Curriculum

Boxed curriculum does exactly that: it boxes in learning, narrows the scope of possibility, and leads kids to believe that learning is a chore. Living curriculum does the opposite: it unleashes learning, opens up possibility and adjacent possibility, and leaves kids excited to continue learning. Living curriculum grows and adapts for a richer, more meaningful learning experience.

3 Steps to a Living Curriculum:

  1. Know your students! This seems like a really obvious first step, but honestly, if you don’t know your students it will be impossible to break free of the box(ed) curriculum. How do you get to know your students? At Anastasis, we dedicate our first days of school to getting to know our students and building a learner profile. We ask all kinds of interest and passion questions, we play a card game that helps us identify their Learning Style preferences, Multiple Intelligence Strengths, and Brain Dominance, and we build a Learner Profile. To take students beyond pre-fab curriculum, you have to know them first. What are their strengths as a learner? Where do they find struggle? All of this information will make you a better guide in the learning. It will also allow your students to understand themselves as learners and their classmates as learners. It will change the ecosystem in your classroom!
  2. Break free of the box. You have to break free of the boxed curriculum before you can truly experience a living curriculum. Boxed curriculum is like teaching students through paint by number. Or like exploring the world via a map. Sure, maps are a predictable. You can see the whole landscape in a simple, two dimensional layout. They give us answers and a 10,000 foot look at a landscape. They allow us to gather some information about the world: where major landmarks are in relation to other major landmarks, what rivers/lakes/mountains we might encounter. With a map, we can chart a course and head a direction. But it isn’t living. Looking at a map is not the same as exploring the world. With inquiry, you may have a guidebook that helps along the way, but it is actually all about the journey. Where boxed curriculum is about answers, inquiry is about the journey to the answer. Living curriculum is immersive learning where students get to create their own map including the features and nuances that are important to them (this is why knowing them is step 1!). Learning is too complex and beautiful to be captured by boxed curriculum. When students are immersed in the journey, they can appreciate the scale of a mountain, the wildlife and ecosystem of a river. A living curriculum is not prescriptive, it is an autobiography of learning written by the student as they learn. A living curriculum uses inquiry because the path to learning is more about following a direction than arriving at a destination. Each year, I create a new set of inquiry guides for our teachers and students. The main inquiry questions stay the same every year (we love the PYP questions!): “Who We Are,” “Where We Are in Place and Time,” “How We Express Ourselves,” “How the World Works,” “How We Organize Ourselves,” and “Sharing the Planet.” Then, under each line of inquiry, I come up with a direction for our inquiry block and additional suggestions for different lines of inquiry that students could follow. Each block has a Pinterest board where we can collect resources for learning during the block. These are books, videos, apps, lesson ideas, articles, experiments, field trip possibilities, etc.
  3. Invite teaching partners and students to collaborate. This is the LIVING part of living curriculum. This is where the curriculum actually comes alive and changes and adapts organically as the learning process unfolds.  Pinterest is a great place for this to happen and, be honest, you are there anyway! Using our Pinterest boards, I start gathering resources I think might be useful, then I invite teachers and students to collaborate with me. As they follow a direction in inquiry, inevitably it leads their learning in unexpected places that I couldn’t have imagined. Inviting teachers and students who are doing the learning to collaborate, the curriculum comes alive. It adapts and changes and grows with us. Living curriculum. Our learning becomes fully immersive, and rich. Students are creating their own maps as they explore learning.

Want to see an example of Living Curriculum in action? Check out this example from Anastasis!

Where to find the card game we use to build our learner profile: The Learning Genome Project

Follow me on Pinterest to see our Living Curriculum grow!

Digital Badges: credentialing the things that make us fully human

Two weeks ago, I attended the Digital Badge Summit in Denver, CO.

I’ve been somewhat hesitant to jump into digital badges world (despite knowing the digital badge ninja, @senorg) because I feared that digital badges were just one more way to categorize and label kids, another carrot to dangle in the classroom. I must admit, that some of this hesitation comes from experience with digital badges within EPIC Kids books, an app we love at Anastasis.

Our students (and teachers) have long been fans of EPIC! because it brings us so many books and expands our classroom libraries and feeds our students desire to read. Toward the end of the school year, EPIC added digital badges. Each time a student reads a book, they earn a badge within EPIC. Pretty quickly our students stopped actually reading the books they had so loved just weeks before. They discovered that if they stayed on each page for a few seconds before flipping, they could get through books really quickly (without actually reading them) and still earn a badge. As educators, we watched our student’s love for reading dissipate in favor of a digital badge. We watched kids go from discussing the books they read, to competing to see who had the most badges. You can read about the full break down on @michellek107‘s blog here.

You can see why it was with some trepidation that I embarked on the Digital Badge Summit, but knowing @senorg as I do, I knew there would be more to digital badging. The Summit was led by Aurora Public Schools who has been on the front end of the digital badge movement. I’m so impressed with the way they have thought about, and are rolling out badging. It is not a replacement for assessment. The badges are not content specific, or task specific. Instead, the APS badges are being used to credential preschool-12th grade students in 21st Century Skills. APS has also partnered with more than 20 Endorsers who are facilitating a currency wherein students who earn endorsed badges, can use them in order to unlock opportunities with employers. Students can earn badges in any order and through a variety of disciplines, making them very customizable to each student’s individual needs, strengths, and experience.

Digital Badges: an autobiography of learning

APS issues badges using Credly. Credly is an end-to-end credential and badge management system. It seamlessly integrates into social media and Open Badge compliance and has an Open Credit API. Badges are fully customizable, it is easy to issue badges to recipients, includes identity verification (to ensure credibility and authenticity), and allows students to share achievements on a variety of sites.

Perhaps my favorite moment of Digital Badge Summit was the bold declaration that digital badges could be a great equalizer in education. @npinkard talked about learning deserts and how digital badging can help us better leverage a youth ecosystem to meet students where they are at (school, community, home, after school, etc.) Students move across multiple learning spaces constantly. These are spaces defined by where learning happens, not a school address. People put their time into learning things that have social capital. Digital badges can be a tool for social and economic justice. They can be a door opener to a successful future.

An APS student spoke toward this reality as he described his own education. As a student with learning needs, he often received a report card that revealed all of the places that he was failing within his education. It revealed every struggle and none of his brilliance. When APS began issuing badges, this student, for the first time, was able to capture and share his brilliance. While he may not be good at the school game, it did not mean that he didn’t have strengths, places where he truly shined. The badges gave this student a way to capture and celebrate what he was good at and share that with others. Now, he is able to take his accomplishments and share with future universities or employers all of the things that make him a standout candidate even if his grades don’t necessarily reflect that. Digital badging can give students a language to promote their skills and experience to future employees or schooling. Digital badges can also be used to facilitate meaningful relationships between students and mentors, they can be used to help guide and motivate students.

A distinction was made between standards (expecting a high-quality) and standardization (repetition, everyone being a cog in the system). As @dajbelshaw said, “I don’t go to two separate Michelin Star restaurants expecting the same dish, but I do expect the same high quality.” This is an important distinction, and one I don’t think we make enough in education. It is also the difference between prescriptive pathways and descriptive pathways. Badges shouldn’t be prescriptive, they should be descriptive of what a student has done. A learning autobiography of what has been accomplished rather than the charted path. “Keep badges weird. Don’t replicate the system we have now with ever more high stake credentials.”-@dajbelshaw

We also heard about how badges can make an e-portfolio more interactive, when badges can be linked directly to learning evidence, students have a powerful map of their learning that is searchable and shareable. Anastasis uses e-portfolios together with our assessment system to help students remember and reflect on their learning journey. The badges can act as a bread-crumb-trail of sorts so that students can go back through and reflect on where they started and all the steps along the way that led to accomplishments. Like growing older, learning often happens as such a pace, that you don’t always know it happened until you look back at pictures. It is only through reflection that you realized that you’ve changed at all. Students need a way to celebrate their small and big wins alike. Badges can help students see the richness of skills that have been learned that isn’t easily captured otherwise.

Several Colorado organizations shared about the ways that they are using digital badging to help students capture learning including the Denver Public Library, Colorado History Museum, and Colorado volunteers. The programs are impressive to be sure, but one of the things that became apparent is that there needs to be a common language in the Digital Badge space. Currently those who are issuing badges are often doing so within their own ecosystem. There isn’t a common ‘currency’ where badges are created and shared. In order for them to reach their full potential, badges need to be more universally shared and accepted so that they exist in a common space. The struggle here is in, “who defines knowledge and gives it a value?”- Paulo Frier This is an important consideration! Badges shouldn’t be controlled by one organization, but rather open, transferable, stackable, and evidence based. Every learner should be able to control their identity and therefore their badges.

“Badging can help credential all things that make us fully human.” @dajbelshaw

Reports and certificates show a very narrow view of what it means to be human. Digital badges open up a wider ability to help us describe who we are and what makes each of us unique. That badges can help us speak toward what makes us more fully human is the reason I left the Digital Badge Summit hopeful. Hopeful that rather than diluting learning with another “carrot” dangled, that digital badges can be a way for students to share their uniqueness, what makes their identity different from anyone else. Used properly, badges can be used to reveal and celebrate our individual humanity. Thanks @senorg and APS for putting on a truly spectacular summit!

Anatomy of a Learner Profile


At Anastasis Academy, we’ve decided that above all else, we will value the identity of all of our students. Because this is a core value, we’ve built it into our school year. Before our first day of school, we hold two days that we call “Learner Profile Days.” Parents sign their child up for a one hour, one-on-one conference between the student and teacher. During this hour, our teacher’s job is to get to know the student. We ask a host of questions that inevitably come with nuance and supporting stories. Then the kids interact with Learning Genome card sets to identify their learning style preferences, their multiple intelligence strengths, and their brain dominance. The result is a Learner Profile.

Learning Genome Card Set

This profile is our starting point for every decision we make. When you begin the year this way, it is impossible to think of students as data points. When you listen to their stories, you learn their feelings, and experiences, and values, and habits of mind, and gain a picture of who they are.

You can do this, you can make the decision to take time out of your first weeks of school and gain a picture of who your students are. What do you value?

The anatomy of a Learner Profile:


Anatomy of a Learner Profile

Student Name- In the whole of history, there has never been another one just like them. With this name comes unique gifts, passions, and a vantage point on the world. With this name comes unique genius all their own. The student name is a bold reminder of the identity.

Interests/Passions- This is where we begin to learn about student passions, their likes and dislikes, their hurts, and the things that make them feel alive. In this one-on-one interview, we hear stories, often these questions will lead students down a thought trail that gives us insight.

Learning Style Preference- Learning Style preferences do not indicate that this is the only modality that the student can learn with; however, when we know the preferences that a student has we can make better decisions about introducing new learning. We discover Learning Style Preferences through the Learning Genome Card Set.

Learning Genome Card Set: Learning Styles

Multiple Intelligence Strengths- Howard Garner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences details eight distinct intelligences. All learners have the capacity to learn and understand in a variety of ways, each learner differs in their strengths of these intelligences. Discovering a students unique mixture of strengths allows us to better direct students in learning and curiosity. We discover Multiple Intelligence Strengths through the Learning Genome Card Set.

Learning Genome Card Set: Multiple Intelligence Strengths

Brain Dominance- Learning about a student’s preference in brain dominance allows us to make better decisions about how we design our classroom, how we design learning experiences, and how students will approach learning and assessment. We discover Brain Dominance through the Learning Genome Card Set.

Learning Genome Card Set: Brain Dominance

 Strengths Finder- This is where we gain insight into our students strengths and the way passion can collide with learning experiences. We use Thrively.







Find Your Pi Day

Find Your Pi Day

What it is: Find Your Pi Day is a simple site from Wolfram where students can type in any number (like a birth date) and the site will tell you where that number falls within the Pi sequence. All dates fall somewhere within the first 10 million digits in the sequence. The place in the sequence is depicted by a spiral that goes in and out to display the beginnings and ends of such long digit sequences.

Find Your Pi Day

How to integrate Find Your Pi Day in your classroom: Find Your Pi Day is a neat site to generate conversation and inquiry into Pi. This is a fantastic place to begin exploration of Pi. Students can learn about the mathematical sequence and the science of Pi in this background Wolfram blog post.

Tips: For some extra fun and discussion, have a look at Vi Hart’s lighthearted “rants” about Pi.

Woot Math: Adaptive learning for fractions and decimals

Woot Math- adaptive fraction/decimals

What it is: Woot Math uses adaptive technology to personalize the math learning experience in new ways for 3rd-6th grade students. With a focus on fractions and decimals, Woot Math allows students many inroads to understanding. Flexible implementation options mean that Woot Math can be used in any classroom configuration whether it be 1:1 devices, shared devices, whole-class, or as intervention. The Woot Math system works on the web, iPads, or Chromebooks seamlessly…it truly is a great option for any classroom! It is super user-friendly, and gives teachers the ability to customize for each student in the class as a starting point. Woot Math is adaptive, as students use it, it gets “smart” and creates learning pathways based on the specific needs of the student. Beginning with foundational rational math concepts, Woot Math makes these necessary foundational skills accessible for all students. It is like having a personal tutor sitting beside them as they work through new learning. If a student doesn’t understand a problem, the program adapts to approach the learning in a new way. The illustration of concepts is brilliant! Woot Math gives students a solid understanding of fractions, laying the necessary ground work for algebra, geometry, physics, chemistry, and statistics. Sign up TODAY, Woot Math is totally free for the 2015-2016 school year!

How to integrate Woot Math into your classroom: To begin with Woot Math, decide how you will use it in your classroom. Do all of your students have access to a technology device? Do you have a bank of devices that they can rotate through? Do you have a projector/interactive whiteboard? If you are using Woot Math with limited technology access, beginning with the Interactive Problem Bank is best. Here you can quickly access thousands of hands-on fraction and decimal problems for students to work through together. You can project the problems on a whiteboard or use an interactive whiteboard. Problems can be selected by topic or standard and then by model type. Students can either work together in community solving problems, or as a center in a math rotation. If you have better access to technology, and students can work independently on a device, the Adaptive Practice is the place to start. Here you can print out student login cards, assign an initial topic, and the program will adaptively generate and assess thousands of interactive problems. This is also the place where you can track student progress and understanding through concepts and skills. The visual examples and leading through problems is fantastic, it is truly an engaging process for students to learn with! This is the best way (in my humble opinion) to use Woot Math, because it allows students to work in exactly the way they need to increase understanding and build a solid foundation of understanding. Be sure to go through Woot Math independently of your students to truly appreciate the interactive learning modules and visual representation of concepts…they are brilliant!

Tips: Be sure to sign up soon, take advantage of this timing when Woot Math is 100% free! There are some great teacher resources to download to help you as you implement Woot Math.

Hat Tip to @yourkidsteacher for sharing this awesome resource with me!

Hello Ruby: A whimsical way to learn about computers and programming

Hello Ruby is the world's most whimsical way to learn about computers, technology and programming.


What it is: Hello Ruby began as a whimsical children’s book by Linda Liuka meant to help kids learn about computers, technology, and programming. Hello Ruby has since escaped the pages of the book, and now Ruby continues all of her adventures in exercises, games, and apps. It is well suited for primary kids, but truly anyone (adults included!) can learn something from Ruby. The story of Ruby is beautiful, it begins with a unique, different girl who is surrounded by her unique and different friends-all with different abilities. Ruby loves learning new things, and hates giving up. She shares her opinions boldly, and is funny. Her secret superpower is being able to imagine impossible things. Her interests include maps, secret codes, and small talk (she should offer a class…I hate small talk!). Each of her friends is equally interesting and dynamic! Beyond the Hello Ruby book, the website is packed full of goodness. There are downloads for your students where they can print their own blank game boards to create unique games, an opportunity to help Ruby organize her wardrobe for dress code, practice building a universal remote control, a ‘what is a computer’ activity, and My First Computer where students can design their own computer!

Watch the TED talk above for the passion behind Hello Ruby!

How to integrate Hello Ruby into your classroom: The Hello Ruby site has a special educator page to get started with Hello Ruby in your classroom. You’ll find lesson plans, educator stories, and resources to help you get started with learning and teaching programming yourself. All necessary components are included on the Hello Ruby site! The lesson plans and ideas included are brilliant and go beyond most lesson plans you’ll find for programming. This is immersive programming that puts students in the middle of the action and has them discovering and acting as inquirers. Hello Ruby is a wonderfully whimsical way to teach students about computers and programming. If you are new to the world of programming, this is the place to start. The ground work for learning to code is all here. Hello Ruby introduces your students to programming but also beautifully engages them in logical thinking, problem solving, and critical thinking exercises. It is genuinely brilliant!

Beyond the introduction to technology and coding, I love the Ruby character and all of her friends. Each is unique and different, and that is celebrated! Hello Ruby celebrates identity and the uniqueness of everyone. Use it as part of your classroom character development. At Anastasis, we’ll use it as part of the Who We Are inquiry block and Detox week.

Tips: The Hello Ruby book comes in English, Finnish, and Swedish. Soon it will be available in Dutch, Hungarian, French, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, and Polish as well.

Thank you @leadanddesign for sending me Linda’s Ted Talk!

How to make your year more awesome

This week at Anastasis, we watched Kid President’s rules for being more awesome in this new year: “What if all made it our resolution to make this year awesome for somebody else?” (If you haven’t shared it with  your kids…you should!)

I’m taking this resolution to heart and want to help make your year awesome! In February, we want to energize you to make the rest of 2016 more awesome with the 5Sigma Education Conference.

5Sigma Education Conference is THE conference to attend if you are interested in:

  • Innovative school models- Tour Anastasis Academy with our students. Ask questions, meet our team, and see education re-imagined.
  • Learner Profiles- How do develop a complete learner profile to inform individualization
  • A fresh approach to assessment- Explore the goals of assessment and how we’ve re-thought assessment
  • A new perspective on classroom space/building use
  • Inquiry learning
  • Professional development approaches that transform
  • Building a strong school community
  • Learning excursions
  • Innovative uses of technology and ePortfolios
  • Prototype labs and maker spaces
  • Incredible conversations with world changing thinkers and innovators

We can’t wait to meet you all in person!

5Sgima Education Conference

Flash & Thunder- Part graphic novel, part game, all fun and learning

INVICTA-Challenge- graphic novel/game/maps


What it is: INVICTA Challenge combines technology (in the form of an action-packed video game), a graphic novel, maps, an operation packet and an action figure that inspires kids to read and problem solve. Each INVICTA Challenge collection builds problem solving and leadership skills for students 8-14. Part story, part game, students are placed in historical situations where they get to make the decisions that will determine success or failure. The first challenge, Flash & Thunder lets students walk in the shoes of an American Hero.

How to Integrate INVICTA Challenge in your classroom: These challenges are a fun and new way to foster literacy, history, and leadership skills in your classrooms. Stories are highly visual and have enough action and adventure to keep even your reluctant readers engaged. The game component of the challenge almost takes on a choose your own adventure feel as it pairs with the graphic novel, maps, and missions. The first challenge, Flash & Thunder tells the true story of a Native American paratrooper’s D-Day leadership. The way that this combination puts students in the middle of the story is fantastic. Students aren’t passive readers…it is impossible! With Flash and Thunder, students are in the middle of the action, analyzing options, making decisions, evaluating the decisions and building comprehension and understanding of history all the way.

The INVICTA challenge is like a smart recombination of the things I enjoyed most from my own childhood: American Girl dolls/Books, Oregon Trail…only with a major upgrade.


At Anastasis, we’ve been working on an inquiry unit about change makers and the power of one. The INVICTA challenge has been a fantastic launching off point for students as they consider what it means to be a change maker, and what characteristics make up a change maker. This interactive challenge/book/game put students in the middle of thinking like a change maker, building leadership traits like integrity, nobility, valor, initiative, curiosity, tenacity, and accountability.


This challenge would be an excellent addition to your classroom library. You might want a few copies so that students can read together and work through the game and missions together in a book group. The video game component will be available on iOS, Android, and online here. Take a look!

Tips: The INVICTA Challenges can be purchased at Barnes and Noble for $34.99. For all that is included in this kit, it is truly a great value! I’m so excited for the other challenges to come out, some very exciting stories and characters are on their way!

Full disclosure: INVICTA sent me the Flash and Thunder challenge so that I could review it for you all here. But…

You can win your own Flash and Thunder challenge at the 5Sigma Education Conference in February! If you register for the conference today, you can save 20% using the code: CYBERMONDAY at check out. Not only will you get the opportunity to win one of these great challenge kits for your classroom, you also get a conference experience like no other!

Wednesday Inspiration

You are a genius and the world needs your contribution!



If you have never had the privilege of hearing Angela Maiers speak, you are missing out!

If Angela’s name isn’t immediately recognizable, her #choose2matter and #youmatter global movements have probably crossed your path.

Angela believes that in today’s world, there are no limits for learners with passion, foresight, and desire to grow. At Anastasis, this message resonates with us.

On February 19, Angela will be the keynote speaker for the 5Sigma Education Conference in Colorado. Angela is the perfect person to kick off a weekend of inspiration, learning, iterating, collaborating, and launching.

5Sigma is unlike any education conference you’ve been to. It begins with a tour of the school I started, Anastasis Academy. This tour is led by Anastasis students of all ages. You’ll get a first hand look at what re-imagined learning looks like. What follows the tour is a weekend of inspiration, passion ignited, collaboration, and fun. We want to introduce you to those (like Angela) who have inspired and shaped us along the way. We have incredible keynotes, sessions, speakers, and panels. On Sunday, we have adult learning excursions that will give you a glimpse of what student field-trips and staff professional development look like at Anastasis.

If you are interested in student voice, starting a school, inquiry, customized assessment solutions, building community, learner profiles, individualized education, 1:1 BYOD environments, learning excursions, professional development that transforms, re-imagined classroom space, design thinking, maker spaces, mentorship, or project-based learning, you will not want to miss this conference! Besides all that, Angela Maiers is our keynote…and that is pretty outstanding!